You are currently viewing archive for December 2008
First off, thanks to the Gardener for his kind remarks about me personally, which I fully reciprocate. I thoroughly enjoyed his response to my Joel Stein piece. Ironically, our original idea for a blog centered around what we often did through the years: the exchange of emails hashing out issues of history, politics, culture, and religion. I say "ironically," as I believe our intention was to do much more of that brand of discourse on our blog than we actually do. Well, the best laid schemes...

What is so amazing about Joel Stein?

It is his honesty about himself and his fellow travelers. This strikes me as nearly unique among his brethren.

While I concede the Gardener's point that Stein does not fully understand conservatism, I would also say that observation is almost irrelevant to my assertion of admiration.

A liberal with a sympathetic understanding of conservatism would be truly miraculous, indeed. Of course, I would guess that devout liberal readers of the Bosque Boys (if there were such an animal) would point to a whole slew of perceived misrepresentations and "straw men" over the years.

Not so remarkable. Pretty human, in fact.

What is remarkable is when a liberal (or conservative) swims against the stream of his own ideological shibboleths.

I gave three examples from Stein:

1. Liberals really don't love America as much as Conservatives.

2. Jews enjoy disproportionate representation in the media and entertainment industry.

3. Blithely proclaiming that you "support the troops" while you oppose the war is disingenuous and is put forward merely for the sake of PR.

Those are devastatingly frank admissions--and exceedingly rare.

Does he get us conservatives right? Not exactly--but, then again, it is more our job than his to get us right. Moreover, a lot of our political discussion is thrust and parry. They assert, and then we defend and counter-assert. At some point, we get fairly close to a truth.

So, Joel Stein is NOT amazing because of his cogent observations about conservatives; he is amazing for his incredibly forthright admissions about his own team.

I think this is a man with whom we can do business.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have deep respect and even affection for A Waco Farmer. He's one of my hetero-life-mates. But sometimes I do a different take on things. Take his recent expression of respect for Joel Klein ( I don't think Farmer was being sarcastic). I did read Klein off-and-on, but gave up on him a couple of years ago as being a great example of the smart fool, the worldly-mind. I will grant that Klein here is honest about his own, and most liberal's, attitude toward America. But he misrepresents conservatives, and so concedes to a straw man.

In Klein's recent LA Times opinion piece he made these statements:

I don't love America. That's what conservatives are always telling liberals like me. Their love, they insist, is truer, deeper and more complete. Then liberals, like all people who are accused of not loving something, stammer, get defensive and try to have sex with America even though America will then accuse us of wanting it for its body and not its soul. When America gets like that, there's no winning.

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

Klein here tells us a lot about himself, but nothing really about conservatives. He contrasts liberal love--seeking to improve the U.S.--with conservative love and concludes that liberals just "like" America. A conservative's love of America, Klein wrote, is "the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world." Wrong. "True love" does not mean blind belief that your children are the best. My wife and I have raised three and we are proud of them. But I have always been aware of their flaws and weaknesses, as well as their strengths. I have sought to minimize the former and encourage the latter. Conservative love for America is not blind. Any real conservative can list on the spot at least three things that objectively make America the greatest, and the ideal place to live. At this moment I would list our Constitution including the Bill of Rights, our national history of self-improvement, and the generosity of Americans with their own money and resources toward those in need. And conservatives, so long as their has been a conservative movement, would like some things in America to be different, and work to change them. Our love is passionate, but not self-deluding.

. . ., I still think conservatives love America for the same tribalistic reasons people love whatever groups they belong to. These are the people who are sure Christianity is the only right religion, that America is the best country, that the Republicans have the only good candidates, that gays have cooties.

So, Mr. Klein, you have advanced enough to transcend tribalism. Perhaps, though, you're just afraid of commitment.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Like legions of loyal conservative RCP fans, this morning I clicked onto this intriguing title: "Do Republicans Love America Too Much?"

What did I find? Joel Stein, columnist for the LA Times.

What's the big deal? I feel like a successful Diogenes. I think I have finally discovered an honest liberal pundit.

His thesis today (the Times headline writer was more descriptive than the RCP tag): "Republicans are blinded by love. Lefties just don't have the same feeling about America as the hard right does."

Can you believe a liberal is willing to admit this obvious but awkward and uncomfortable fact of life? Usually, that simple truth is "fighting words" for most left-of-center politicos. But Stein doesn't just own up to the "accusation," he patiently explains the merits of a healthy skepticism for the "tribalism" that compels patriots to slavishly adore their native land.

Savor this gem:

But I've come to believe conservatives are right. They do love America more. Sure, we liberals claim that our love is deeper because we seek to improve the United States by pointing out its flaws. But calling your wife fat isn't love. True love is the blind belief that your child is the smartest, cutest, most charming person in the world, one you would gladly die for. I'm more in "like" with my country.

How honest is Stein? His previous column addressed the awkward truth that Jews actually do run Hollywood. Did he really say that? Another must read.

Some of you may be thinking this is a familiar name. And some of you are undoubtedly thinking, "how could this ignoramus not know Joel Stein."

In fact, Stein made a big splash a couple of years ago when he wrote a column in which he explained that he did not "support the troops." Why? Because he opposed the war. And supporting the troops and opposing the war was a prima facie contradiction.


But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken -- and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

One more must read, equally brilliant in its honesty and impeccable logic.

I am now recalling the dust up back then resulting from this piece. A lot of the right-wing talkers held him up as the ultimate disloyal liberal pundit. Too bad. That reaction misses the point.

In Joel Stein we have an incisive and honest (and laugh-out loud funny) opponent. My guess is that we can learn a lot from him. Stein is now a permanent must read for me.
I read Newsweek sometimes. Fareed Zakaria does some good pieces, like this one (although it's not actually IN Newsweek, but Foreign Affairs). Plus, I like the page toward the front that has cartoons and quotations on it. Usually good stuff there.

But this week's cover story by Lisa Miller does a good job of wiping away any respect I held for the mag. As journalism, the piece is lacking - she only interviews one side of the debate, and makes assumptions as to the arguments of the other. As biblical exegesis (hey, it's what she's purporting to do, so she should be judged on it) it is un-nuanced, incomplete, and dead wrong on several assertions.

I'd go on, but Molly at did a much better job than I could - LINK.

I have no idea how this made it in the mag, let alone got the cover. I can only think that the magazine as a whole is completely shot. Sorry, Fareed, but your next article will have to make it to Foreign Affairs, too, before I'll get around to reading it.